Washington, DC — First quarter federal reports show Google lobbied on the electronic medical records provisions of the federal economic stimulus act, contradicting the Internet giant’s earlier claims that Consumer Watchdog’s report of its effort was “100 percent false.”
Google’s report shows a total expenditure of $880,000 on lobbying during the period including on “online health-related initiatives; issues relating to online personal health records, including in connection with H.R. 1: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.” Google also contracted with an outside firm, the Podesta Group, which independently reported lobbying for Google on “health information technology” and “online privacy.”
King and Spalding LLP also independently reported lobbying for Google on “online health-related initiatives, including health information technology provisions in H.R. 1, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”
After the nonprofit, nonpartisan Consumer Watchdog reported the “rumored” lobbying in January, Google contacted a charitable foundation about withdrawing Consumer Watchdog’s funding.
In a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt released today, Consumer Watchdog said the company owes the group an apology.
“It is now clear from public records that Google was lobbying Congress relating to online personal health records in connection with the economic stimulus act… What else could Google have been seeking except to be excluded from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provisions on privacy and forbidding sale of records? Please tell us,” wrote Jamie Court, Consumer Watchdog president and John M. Simpson, consumer advocate.
“There is a simple way to resolve this,” the letter said. “Publicly release all the substance of Google’s lobbying efforts on H.R. 1. Google knows the drill: organize the information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Consumer Watchdog called on Google Inc. to come clean and release the specific positions it advocated during its lobbying campaign, reiterating an earlier call for disclosure. Issues that Google sought to influence are listed in first quarter lobbying reports filed with the Senate Office of Public Records. The documents show how much was spent in the period and what issues Google sought to influence, but do not make clear the company’s specific positions.
In January Consumer Watchdog issued a news release asking Google to cease a “rumored lobbying effort” to ease provisions of the federal stimulus act that would have prevented the sale of electronic personal medical records. Google responded with a post on its Public Policy Blog calling the release “100 percent false and unfounded.” Then Robert Boorstin, Director of Corporate and Policy Communications, sought to have Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project funding from the Rose Foundation cut off.
“You owe us and your users a clear explanation of what Google was doing in the Capitol,” the new letter said. “As it stands now, the available record only leads to the conclusion that you were misrepresenting your activities.”
Lobbying firms also independently revealed what they received from Google to lobby for the company. The Podesta Group Inc. reports receiving $150,000 from Google and King and Spalding LLP received $80,000 for their efforts on Google’s behalf.
According to the records, other firms receiving money to lobby on Google’s behalf — though not on the medical records issue — include Dutko Worldwide ($50,000) Franklin Square Group ($50,000), McBee Strategic Consulting ($30,000), Wilmer Cutler Pickering Halle & Dorr ($10,000) and Van Ness Feldman (less than $5,000).
Consumer Watchdog, formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with offices in Washington, DC and Santa Monica, Ca. Our website is www.ConsumerWatchdog.org.